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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

Ill

HUMORISTS, SATIRISTS,
SATANISTS AND VISIONARIES

FRANK WEDEKIND (1864-1918) disputed the right of the natur-
alists to portray their acquaintances in their plays, as, he
thought, Hauptmann had done with him in DasFriedensJest\
he brings this into his farce Diejmge Welt (1898), in which he
satirizes the mania for documentation: one of the characters, a poet,
transfers to his note-book every quiver of his wife's soul. Wede-
kind cannot be called a naturalist because: (a) he has no pity;
(b) the characters and action of his plays are not observed, but
invented, i.e. they are caricatures of reality or quite fantastic;
(<r) the form of his plays is not analytic, but synthetic, a film-like
sequence of scenes or pictures, as in the old Sturm und Drang, with
an illusory division into acts. His characters have a habit of speak-
ing as if they were alone on the stage, and what the next speaker
says is not necessarily connected with this self-communing; this
* Aneinandervorbeireden* is typical of Wedekind. The dialogue gener-
ally is jerky, as though marionettes were speaking; and Wedekind
and his wife acted in his own plays with the stiff movements of
wooden dolls. Wedekind is the creator of a new genre, the gro-
tesque drama of manners, and in this respect, as in his rejection of
the accepted canons of decency, he is the acknowledged prophet
and forerunner of expressionism. To some extent his characters
are, as in expressionist drama, types rather than individualized
characters. The butt of his vitriolic attack is conventional moral-
ity, but he himself, in repeated self-interpretation through the
mouth of his characters, claims to be a moralist, and, incredible
as it seems to us, the claim has been upheld by the most serious
academic critics of Germany, The explanation no doubt is that he
came in on a flood-tide of popularity after his death as a critic of